Courtesy: Montana State Sports Information
The 116th edition of the Cat-Griz football game didn't start as planned for Montana State, but the Bobcats reeled off 24 consecutive points and held off a late surge to defeat Montana, 24-17, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday, Nov. 19.
The Bobcats (4-7, 2-6 Big Sky) received the opening kick and went three-and-out on their first drive. After a 48-yard punt that stopped on the Montana (6-5, 3-5 Big Sky) 42-yard line, the Griz fired out with a 58-yard touchdown strike on the first play from Brady Gustafson to Justin Calhoun to put Montana ahead 7-0 just 2 minutes, 23 seconds into the contest.
MSU's offense responded with a 41-yard drive after the Montana score, but again the Bobcats were forced to punt and give the ball back to the Griz.
That's when the Montana State defense took over.
Montana wound up going 10 straight drives without scoring, including six drives that ended in three plays.
The Bobcats evened things up at 7 at the 4:13 mark in the first quarter. Chris Murrayaccounted for 22 yards on a 40-yard drive that ended with Murray flipping over Montana defenders into the end zone on an 8-yard keeper.
The score remained tied heading into second quarter before MSU struck again.
MSU's first drive ended with a blocked field goal, but a tackle for loss on third-and-2 by Brayden Konkol forced another end to a Montana drive and punt.
Two rushes set up a third-and-2 on the Griz 48-yard line on the ensuing MSU drive. Murray again found pay dirt, busting through the line with a 48-yard rushing touchdown to give the Bobcats a 14-7 lead at the 10:54 mark in the second quarter.
The rest of the first half went back-and-forth between the rivals. MSU linebacker Josh Hillpicked off Gustafson to set the Bobcats up in Griz territory, but a missed 40-yard field goal was the closest either team would get to scoring before the half.
MSU held Montana to just 117 yards of total offense through the first half.
Montana opened the second half with another three-and-out and the Bobcats followed by marching down the field in six plays, 88 yards behind a 65-yard run by Gunnar Brekkeand 26-yard rush by Chad Newell. The Bobcats went up 17-7 at 10:41 of the third quarter with a 21-yard Gabe Peppenger field goal.
A three-play, 69-yard drive increased the Bobcat lead to 24-7. Murray opened the third quarter drive beginning at 9:16 with a 4-yard run, Nick LaSane went down the left sideline for 61 yards and Newell capped it with a 4-yard touchdown.
The Griz made their move but were stopped short at the goal line. Montana went 74 yards down the field in 11 plays, but Gustafson was stuffed on a quarterback sneak at the 1 with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
Two straight drives of just three plays for the Bobcats was enough time for the Griz to cut the deficit to 24-17. Another three-and-out for MSU gave the ball back to Montana with a chance to tie the game in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Montana marched 36 yards on seven plays and got as far as the MSU 27-yard line, however, the Griz faced fourth-and-10 and an incomplete pass ended the drive.
The Bobcats got the ball back with 6:20 to play and wouldn't relinquish it until the time was off the clock.
Murray, Brekke and Newell combined to run the ball down the field for the Bobcats from their own 29 to the Montana 29. Facing fourth-and-1 with 1:55 left, MSU pulled off a play action pass from Murray to Connor Sullivan that went for 26 yards down to the 3-yard line. The Bobcats kneeled down three times to finish off the victory.
Montana State outgained Montana 405-305 yards, including a 368-113 edge on the ground. The Bobcats also held a majority of the time of possession, finishing the game with the ball for 38:14.
Murray finished as the Bobcats' leading rusher with 142 yards on 26 carries. Brekke and Newell combined for 30 rushes and 168 yards rushing. MSU's defensive effort was led by Hill and Grant Collins as each finished with eight tackles. Konkel and Mac Bignell also had six tackles a piece.
The Bobcats finish the season with two straight wins and an overall record of 4-7. MSU ended Montana's three-game winning streak over the Bobcats and gave MSU its 38th win in the rivalry series.